Geneva: Racist incidents are on the rise in Switzerland according to a report published on Tuesday by rights groups who accused politicians of contributing to the trend.

Muslim and black men were the most common victims of 178 cases recorded last year, a study by the Federal Commission against Racism found.

It compares to 162 cases in 2009.

"In recent years, a number of MPs have been employed in denying the presence of racism in our society," the report said.

"In doing so, they are creating a favourable environment for exclusion and xenophobia."

The groups said that votes to ban the building of minarets and send back foreign criminals, initiated by the right-wing Swiss People's Party, were directly linked to the rise in cases.

"After the vote on minarets (in November 2009) Muslims were increasingly targeted," commission director Doris Angst said.

Muslims represented the majority of cases followed by blacks from sub-Saharan Africa. Most cases involved verbal abuse but some involved
physical injury, the report said.

"Most of the perpetrators were from a higher socio-economic background," it found.